Rethinking Adoption: Productive Discussion Rather Than Designed-to-Fail Applications
If you’ve ever tried to adopt a pet from a conventional shelter or rescue group, you know that the application process can be daunting. The forms you’ve had to fill out, and proof of vaccinations and fenced yards, were largely designed to prevent “bad adoptions,” or adoptions that were likely to fail or be detrimental to the animal. In the process, many perfectly caring and stable people have been denied the opportunity to adopt a cat or dog that they’d fallen in love with because of black-and-white, yes-or-no questions. But in a charge led by The Humane Society of the United States, a new approach has emerged and it is aptly titled “Adopters Welcome.”
Instead of trying to rule out potential adopters, it focuses on trying to find and cultivate good forever homes for pets in need. The new approach utilizes in depth, in-person discussion as a supplement to a basic application. By talking with potential adopters, shelter personnel can get a sense of the person’s attitudes and intentions and engage them in a dialogue about best practices in pet stewardship.
The Adopters Welcome approach encourages shelters to examine their adoption policies to ensure they are based on current knowledge and not well-intentioned, but mistaken, beliefs. Rather than looking for ways to disqualify people from taking home a pet, the new approach says, “let's find ways to send good people home with a pet by engaging in conversation and providing information and resources.”
The Adopters Welcome approach also eliminates “barrier questions.” These are the fateful deal-breaker questions that can stop an adoption in its tracks: Do you keep your current cat indoors? Do you have a fenced yard [for a dog]? If you have other pets, are their vaccinations up to date? Please supply a veterinarian for reference. Do you rent or own your home? If you rent, what is your landlord’s name and telephone number? Many perfectly qualified adopters are sweating by now… But by asking these questions verbally in a non-threatening way, the trained staff member is able to assess a person’s sincerity and engage them in discussion.
Dismissing potential adopters outright for a “wrong” answer also circumvents important teaching opportunities. Does the adopter know how and why declawing is actually detrimental to cats? Do they know why indoor cats are healthier and live longer – and can be just as happy and as easy to maintain as outdoor cats?
Many people have also been disqualified as adopters due to low income or advanced age and yet there is no evidence to suggest that these people would not be loving and responsible pet owners. In reality, lack of support after the adoption and no access to affordable veterinary care are the biggest causes of adoption failure. Adopters Welcome recommends the reallocation of resources away from the scrutiny of adopters’ lifestyles and toward the provision of a strong support system to ensure successful placements.
At the Patricia H. Ladew Foundation Inc., we have been practicing many of these principles all along and we are following with great interest and support The Humane Society’s movement toward Adopters Welcome. We talk at length with our potential adopters and we get to know them as people. We provide ongoing support to our adopters, including free medical care (within reason) for life for our senior kitties who go to senior humans' homes, and we adopt all cats out with the understanding that kitty can always come back if things change at home and the placement becomes unviable. Our adopters come to see the Foundation as an extended family and on-going support network.
The highly judgmental screening practices of the past were well intentioned, but begged the question, are we missing the good apples while trying to weed out the bad apples? With the many thousands of shelter animals that need homes at any given time, it makes sense to move to a more proactive approach to finding homes instead of rejecting adopters. Reducing our reliance on paper applications and deal breaker questions by employing more personal interaction is a logical reallocation of our efforts.
Here at the Ladew Cat Sanctuary we agree. We’re proud to say it: Adopters Welcome.
HAPPY ENDING ALERT!! OLAF, (formerly Winterfell #A1062126 Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC)) HAS BEEN ADOPTED!!!
In January, "Winterfell" found himself at Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC) with a painful lesion on his nose and a presumptive diagnosis of cancer. A plea was sent from ACC to approved New Hope Partners of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals to rescue him. We had room and Winterfell (now Olaf) came to us. Olaf was immediately started on antibiotics and pain medication and was scheduled to have a biopsy (and a neuter). Within a few days, Olaf's injury began to heal and we determined that the wound on his nose was either a traumatic injury or infection rather than a cancerous process as was previously thought. Olaf was neutered and about to be put up for adoption when we noticed another problem. Olaf appeared to be blind in his right eye. Was this an old problem or a new one?
To figure it out, we turned to ophthalmologist, Dr. John Sapienza Long Island Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Sapienza (pictured above with LVT Christine Brewer) examined Olaf and diagnosed a detached retina, a condition which can occur with high blood pressure, infection, cancer or blunt force trauma. With the tincture of time and a few diagnostic tests, Dr. Sapienza concluded that whatever trauma caused the lesion on Olaf's nose was likely significant enough to detach his retina causing blindness in his right eye.
While all this was going on, an about-to-be-married couple fell in love with Olaf and didn't mind waiting for all these tests to come back. We are very happy to report that the second he was cleared, they raced over to scoop him up. Olaf is in his forever home.
It takes a village to care for homeless cats and thanks to the efforts of a network of caring rescues and veterinarians, Olaf is ADOPTED!
If you would like to help us help more cats like Olaf, please consider donating to our New Hope Fund.
Valentine's Day is coming! How about doing something different this year? We have three new ways for you to show that special someone how much you care about them and about kitties in need.
Our Have-A-Heart Fund helps cats with heart murmurs find homes. Your donation will help pay for echocardiograms for the life of that cat -- this means that new owners don't have to worry about that costly expense! Sasha was found outside. . . read her story on page 2>>
Your loved one will receive a card from Houdini, President of the Have-Heart-Fund acknowledging your generous gift.
If you choose to donate to our New Hope Fund, your recipient will receive a card from one of the cats that we rescued from Animal Care Centers, a high volume municipal shelter. Olaf was one of those cats -- read his story on page 3>>
You can also sponsor any cat at our facility and your valentine will receive a letter from that cat (which can be personalized) thanking them for your heart-filled gift. See who's looking>>
As 2015 draws to a close, we are so thankful to everyone who adopted from us, donated to us and supported us in every other way. Our work never ends, as there are always more cats that need us. Here's a list of our current residents (with the exception of a few who found recent forever homes). Some are still looking for homes while others are only available for sponsorship. Sponsorship is a great way to help - it's like adopting, but we'll clean the litter box! Happy Holidays from Rubio and the rest of us at the Ladew Cat Sanctuary. See who's looking >>
Ladew Mews Autumn 2015 has finally hit the stands. Inside this issue: Read all about the rescue of Teddy Roosevelt, a stray who had a rough ride. Take advantage of coupons offered by Goodshop for your holiday shopping online and Goodshop will donate a proceed of your purchase to the Ladew kitties (search Ladew)! Check out some of the new cats and kittens that have been rescued through our New Hope Program and see who's looking for homes! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
We are excited to let you all know about our partnership with Goodshop. Goodshop works with thousands of stores to provide our supporters the best coupon codes AND donate a percentage of what you spend back to help our cats! Here are some examples of deals you could find:
20% off at Macys and 3.5% of what you spend will be donated right to our mission!
$10 off every 30 at VistaPrint and 4$ will come to support our cats!
25% off at Petco and up to 4% of your purchase helps our mission!
Please use Goodshop for all your shopping needs -- our kitties are depending on you!
NBC and Telemundo's Clear The Shelters was a huge success nationwide. In our own corner of the world, over 1000 animals were adopted in NY and 15 at The Ladew Cat Sanctuary. Our first adoption was June, a sweet 2-month-old kitten. NBC interviewed the family shortly after adoption and posted it on their website!
On Saturday, August 22nd, at 7 p.m., NBC4 will air a Clear the Shelters special. NBC called us today for pictures, so make sure you tune in to see if you made the cut!
Thanks again to all of our incredible volunteers and to everyone who participated in this incredible event.
We've got some new faces that are ready to go to new homes! We've got Bengals, Savannahs, Russian Blues, Siamese and Himalayans. Their owner, unfortunately, became seriously ill and unable to care for them. Visit our page and see who's looking!
Ladew Mews Spring 2015 has hit the stands! Inside this edition we introduce you to our new website, announce the date for Adoptapalooza, report on some very Happy Cat Tails and more! Dr. Susan also gives some tips on keeping those pesky fleas off your feline. Have a great weekend!
We are happy to announce the launch of our new website, thanks to a grant from Maddie's Fund! While the name remains the same, (www.theladewcatsanctuary.org) we hope that the new site will make it easier to adopt and/or sponsor cats like Sandy, pictured above. We have also added new ways for you to donate, such as our New Hope Fund (which helps cats from Animal Care and Control), or our new Have-A-Heart Fund which will help us provide diagnostic testing and monitoring for kitties with heart murmurs.
It takes a village to help the animals and we couldn't do it without you! We hope you enjoy the new site and look forward to a future filled with more wonderful, forever homes and providing homeless cats with the medical care that they need.
While at the North American Veterinary Conference, I came upon something called Slim Cat. I prefer to call it a treat ball. It is a ball with holes on the side that can be made smaller or larger. You fill the ball with treats (or dry food) and the cat has to work to get the treats out. I have one cat who will push the ball all over the place to get the treats out while the lazy ones follow behind to pick up the treats he missed. Slim Cat. It's awesome!